Citizens of Charleston, fellow council members, mayor and staff:
Dialogue and discussion is the springboard to consensus. With the huge job of joining together to pass this cities budget, we need discussion because we need consensus. That discussion helps us determine policy. Determining Policy is OUR job as Councilmembers.
We cannot have “group think” without real transparency and full disclosure.
Transparency and disclosure have NOT been part of this body’s culture in the past. But, there has been a sea of change, not just here in Charleston, but in the US and the world.
Transparency inflates the value of reputation. How it combines with the free flow of information makes reputation more vulnerable to inaccurate or unfair charges.
At the budget workshop, an alternative idea was brought forth. Our city owns millions of dollars of property. This property has to be maintained. This is a cost. This city-owned property could be producing tax revenues if sold. This idea was not well received. I was belittled and talked down to by the Administration saying it was a terrible idea. But tonight, we are asked to sell some city-owned land and are not being told were the money will go.
At first reading, I requested some transparency. What I got was vagueness and condescending answers. Finally, just less than 24 hours ago I received some info that while helpful, still is vague and are mere projections for 2010. I did find out we will have 534 cell phones and 150 long distance charge cards for employees. When asking of the citizens of Charleston to “take it or leave it” with this budget, this simple cell phone expenditure shows we don’t practice what we preach. Yes, I did find out some answers to my proposed questions. But, as previously mentioned. It was less than 24 hours ago.
On a last note, I did propose another very simple question during first reading. I asked specifically about items that the Hospitality and Accommodation tax receivables could be spent on. I was disturbed to find out that the answers that were given were incorrect. I did the research and have the sections of the code right here disproving the answers given to all of us. It is section 6-1-530; item a, number 2 and section 6-1-730, item 1, number 2. These are in the SC Code of Laws under Title 6 – Local Governments
SO, if the budget makers were vague and inaccurate, uninformed, or even misinformed on this item, what assurances have we that the same may hold true for other items in this budget?
How do we support the passage of this budget when the first reading was “divide and conquer” and this second reading is bludgeoned by vagueness? I am asking the Administration and his staff, “Please let us do our job: Give us accurate information.”
As to the rate hike with SCEG as the only answer to balance this budget, I say “SHAME”. Another tax on the poor, seniors and Charlestonians on fixed incomes. If we had accurate information and ample time to work on this $146m budget with the Administration, we could balance this budget without hurting the poor, the seniors and our citizens on fixed incomes. These are tough times. Our constituents deserve better and they deserve more transparency.
“Sunshine is the best detergent.”